Gift supports USC’s first named professorship in stage management

The School of Dramatic Arts will seek an industry leader to enhance curriculum and boost mentorship for students

June 08, 2016 Delphine Vasko

An endowed professorship in stage management has been established at the USC School of Dramatic Arts with a $1.5 million gift from Teresa and Byron Pollitt and their daughter, Alice M. Pollitt ’15.

The Pollitts’ donation is the first naming gift to a stage management professorship in the nation and the first endowed professorship at USC Dramatic Arts.

“The Pollitt family’s generosity enables the USC School of Dramatic Arts to immediately strengthen and enhance the training we provide stage managers, and underscores the importance of these artists on a national level,” said David Bridel, dean of USC Dramatic Arts. “We are profoundly grateful to Alice, Teri and Byron for this transformative gift.”

The new Alice M. Pollitt Professorship in Stage Management will enable the university to create a new position and hire an industry leader who will enhance curriculum, as well as create increased mentorship and professional development for stage management students, with an emphasis on bicoastal career opportunities. The overarching goal of the professorship will be to position the school’s stage managers to graduate fully prepared for the careers that await them and be more versed in a wide variety of different theatrical styles, including musicals.

Managing to get a degree

The BFA in Stage Management degree has been offered at USC Dramatic Arts since 1991 and is distinctive in its ability to provide students with ongoing, intensive hands-on experience in the technical aspects of production, management and design. Students begin exploring the skills they acquire in the classroom through assignments on productions as early as their first year of enrollment, and they stage manage at least two productions each academic year.

Having lived this experience with our daughter, we realized that the program could be taken to a whole new level of student experience and professional development if it had more dedicated resource support.

Byron Pollitt

“The USC stage management program, the unusually large number of university theatrical productions and a lively community of undergraduate independent student productions provided Alice with numerous opportunities to develop her craft and create an impressive theatrical resume. Having lived this experience with our daughter, we realized that the program could be taken to a whole new level of student experience and professional development if it had more dedicated resource support,” Byron Pollitt said. “Alice, Teri and I are making this investment so that future stage management students will benefit not only from more personalized mentoring and instruction, but have additional exposure to career opportunities that allow them to pursue their passion and their craft.”

Added Alice Pollitt: “My belief is that we should all try and make a place we care about better off than when we arrived. The collaboration with Dean Bridel over the past year aimed at building on the foundation of the stage management program to make it truly preeminent has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.”

The biggest gift in a decade

This donation, the largest gift to the school in 10 years, is the first since Bridel was named dean in June.

“It’s so incredible to see the positive energy and drive that Dean Bridel possesses,” Alice Pollitt said. “He is a collaborative artist and administrator with a bold vision. It will be exciting to see how his legacy unfolds for the school as we move forward in this next chapter.”

A national search for this new faculty member will begin this fall.

Teresa and Byron Pollitt are proud, three-time USC parents. In addition to Alice, who earned her BFA in stage management, daughter Emily earned a B.A. in political science from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Mary earned a master’s in accounting from the USC Leventhal School of Accounting.

Teresa (herself a USC MBA alumna) and Byron are current members of the USC Associates, the USC Parent Leadership Circle and Cardinal and Gold Athletics. They also served as the USC School of Dramatic Arts’ San Francisco Bay Area Parent Ambassadors from 2012-15.

Alice Pollitt has interned with the Disney Theatrical Group and worked on the 2015 Tony Awards, as well as the productions of American Psycho (Broadway), Noises Off (Broadway), Aladdin (Broadway), Amélie, Before Your Very Eyes, Marilee & Baby Lamb, The Screens and the Canadian tour of Matilda. This summer she will be the production stage manager on Lisa and Leonardo in the New York Musical Festival.

The gift supports The Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand the university’s positive impact on the community and world. The campaign has raised more than $5 billion to date.